Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2003 / 25 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
The FCC 'effs' up
Expletives should be deleted.
A month ago, to little fanfare, the Federal Communications Commission opened the way for forms of
a certain four-letter word to be used on broadcast television. The FCC ought to reverse its decision --
and if it doesn't, Congress ought to move swiftly to bring the FCC, and the broadcasters, in line.
The FCC was ruling on a complaint generated when rock star Bono used a variation of the
"F-word" during an acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards in January.
The FCC, by law, must prohibit the utterance of "any obscene, indecent or profane language by
means of radio communication." Agency regulations, without sufficient explanation, narrow the
restriction to forbid language that "depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in
terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast
By any reasonable measure, any form of the word in question is either "obscene, indecent or pro
fane." And, even within the terms of the FCC's overly narrow regulation, the very root of the word, and
its definition in Webster's, obviously refers (in an offensive way) to a sexual activity.
Indeed, it is beyond any reasonable doubt that both the law and regulation were drafted with the
intent to ban that specific word from airwaves owned collectively by the public.
Nevertheless, the FCC ruled that, as used by Bono, the word "did not describe sexual or excretory
organs or activities," but instead was merely "an adjective or expletive to emphasize an
That's goofy. Indeed, it's about as clear an example as you'll ever see of bureaucrats getting so
wrapped up in their own bureaucrat-ese that they miss the plain meaning of the laws they are
supposed to implement.
National communities have every right to uphold community standards. The "F-word" is manifestly
offensive to those standards, and should be forbidden.
When it comes to the public airwaves, free speech isn't a blank check.
JWR contributor Quin Hillyer is an editorial writer for the Mobile Register, where this ran as an unsigned editorial reflectng the position of the editorial board. Comment by clicking here.
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